Tips for Organizing Children’s Toys

Doesn’t it seem like kid’s toys just have a way of multiplying and taking over the house? Here are some of our tips on how to manage and organize children’s toys.

Keys for managing toys:

Limit the amount of toys in your household:

Every time we bring something new into our home we are starting a relationship with that object. We will have to care for the item, clean it, pick it up, change the battery, find a home for it, and learn how to use it. This meantime and energy. There is only so much we can manage. Be realistic about the time and energy you have to devote to stuff otherwise, you will end up spending your time and energy taking care of stuff instead of enjoying your children.

Purchase mindfully: Treasured toys that spark deep and imaginative play can be such a magical part of childhood. But toys that are developmentally not a match, are designed for one use, are too loud and annoying can have the opposite effect. Look for toys that are high quality, open-ended (they can be used for many different types of play), and go the distance.

Decide when your kids will get new toys: In our household, new toys only came on holidays. (with a few grandma exceptions) My kids knew that if we were in a toy store anything that they might want would go on a birthday list or Christmas list (even if it was the middle of December!) Having them see me take it seriously and write it down on a list on my phone prevented any toy store meltdowns.

Get family members on board: Try to divvy up a wish list amongst family members at birthday or holiday time. If you give your child everything on the list and then relatives and friends give gifts as well- it adds up and becomes too much very fast.

Keys for organizing toys:

The key to organizing is to find a good home within your home for each and every object. A good home is clean and spacious, in a location where you most often use the item. We want to make it very easy to put the item away- otherwise, we will avoid picking up and our home will be cluttered before we know it!

Designate a home within your home for each and every toy. Store like with like in the location where your child most often plays with the toy. It is better not to store toys all over the house. It is clearer for your child if they primarily go to one place to take out and put away their toys. A general rule of thumb is to store toys, such as books, stuffies, and sentimental toys in your child’s bedroom and more active toys in a play area in another part of your home. Toys should not live in adult bedrooms! Set boundaries for your adult space. Chances are you will enjoy your child playing with toys in your room, but at the end of the day, the toys don’t live in your space.

Don’t over-organize: You want it to be easy for you and your child to put things away. Avoid over categorizing. All vehicles in a bin is sufficient- no need to divide cars into one bin, trucks in another, etc.

Choose open, visible, easy to carry bins and baskets: We can’t stress enough how important it is to make it easy to pick up.  Open and clear bins make the contents visible to your child and easy to transport is a bonus particularly for small piece toys- this way your child can take the bin to where she is playing and carry it back on her own.

Create a small unknown pieces box: Designate a box for pieces you find and aren’t sure where they belong. Label it. This is very helpful. We will avoid a task if we have uncertainty about the next step. If you have this box there is no need to worry when you come across random pieces- just put them in this box and if your child is missing a piece he can rummage through.

More tips:

Rotate Toys: If you are tight on space try rotating toys. You can set up a “toy store” in a closet or garage space. When your child is ready for a change you can use the one rule in and one rule out rule. This keeps the toys new and exciting for your child.

Create a “things I want to giveaway box” Invariably, no matter our best efforts, we will have periods of too many toys. It is best to let go of any toys that are no longer loved or useful. For young children (under 6) this is our responsibility. (For children older than six you can learn more here for how and when to involve them.) For the most part, we know which things are serving our child and which it is time to let go of to make space.  If you aren’t certain whether your child will miss a toy, just put it in an opaque box labeled “things I want to give away.” If it is not missed for a period of time chances are it is safe to let go. Just don’t revisit the box with your child as almost certainly the newness of it will make it desirable!

Learn more about our book, Clutter-free Parenting

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